Coins and banknotes started pouring out of the machine and dropping to the floor. I stood there for a few seconds, looking stupid. It's what I do best, after all. I looked around for something to catch it in. There was nothing. In those few seconds the pile grew even higher, forming a small mountain around my boots. Part of it was creeping INTO my boots.. Some coins were bouncing off other coins at various angles and taking different trajectories. They were hitting me painfully, on the knees, the hands, the chest. As I leaned over, one particularly large one caught me in the right eye. OUCH! That really hurt, and now I had a stupid-looking face with one eye closed, making it even more stupid looking, no doubt.
I looked at the display on the machine, with my one open eye, and saw that the strange symbols and patterns had now formed into readable words. It seemed that they had been processed in such a way that they could only be read with monocular vision.
CONGRATULATIONS! YOU HAVE WON THE INTERNATIONAL JACKPOT! PLEASE COLLECT YOUR WINNINGS AND PROCEED TO THE TERMINAL FOR PROCESSING
The message flashed three times and then disappeared, to be replaced by another:
USE YOUR SWEATSHIRT, STUPID!
I took it off and spread it out on the ground, then began to scoop up handfuls of money and pile it in the middle. I noticed that there were many different currencies here. Some I could only guess at, but the majority of it was made up of Euros, US Dollars and Sterling. I grabbed a few of the larger denomination notes and stuffed them into my jeans pockets, as I could see that the crowd was edging closer. Little kids were sneaking up and snatching up the odd note or handful of coins, urged on by their parents. I felt I ought to say something, but was mindful of the fact that this wasn't really mine. Surely it really belonged to the old lady.
It was very obvious that my sweatshirt wasn't anywhere near large enough to hold all this cash, but I carried on as best I could. A lady pushed through the crown, and came over, handing me two carrier bags from the supermarket. I thanked her. I emptied my sweatshirt into one of the bags, then filled the other one. There was still quite a lot left on the floor, but I had done my best. I held one carrier bag in each hand and stood up, then tried to lift them. Good grief, they were heavy! I wondered how far away this ''terminal'' was and how on earth I would find it.
I looked at the machine's display again – and saw that the symbols and patterns had returned. I closed my right eye, and saw that the message had changed once more:
THE GUARD WILL BE WITH YOU IN 30 SECONDS.
THE GUARD WILL BE WITH YOU IN 25 SECONDS.
THE GUARD WILL BE WITH YOU IN 20 SECONDS.
THE GUARD WILL BE WITH YOU IN 15 SECONDS.
I turned my head, to see a tall, very bulky woman in a burgundy coloured uniform approaching me. The crowd parted. She was armed. Her hand went towards her firearm, and I flinched. Then I saw that she had a sack tucked into her belt. It was made of the same robust burgundy fabric of her uniform. She untucked it and handed it to me, motioning with her head at the carrier bags. I hoisted them both up, with much puffing and blowing, and transferred them to the sack. Then I tried lifting it. That was completely impossible. I tried dragging it, which was almost as bad. I think I may have moved it all of two inches.
I shrugged at the guard, who towered over me. She grabbed the neck of the sack and, one-handed, slung it over her enormous shoulder. Turning her back, she walked away and I followed, leaving behind a still fairly generous pile of mainly coins behind me. In my peripheral vision, I saw the crowd descend upon it.